Michelin testing airless tires in real-world conditions on French mail vans

Michelin will continue testing its Uptis range of airless tires by fitting them to 40 vans owned by French postal service La Poste. The brand has already started testing the prototype tire — which can’t deflate or go flat — in real-world conditions in Asia and in North America.

The pilot project will begin in June 2023, when La Poste installs a set of Uptis airless tires on three of its delivery vehicles. It sounds like the yellow vans will then deliver letters and parcels like any other van fitted with regular tires. The data gathered during the first phase of the project will then be analyzed and used to make improvements if necessary, and up to 40 delivery vans will be fitted with Uptis tires by 2024.

Michelin’s images show the Uptis tires fitted to a Citroën Jumpy, which is a medium-sized van that competes in the same segment as the now-gone Mercedes-Benz Metris and the Renault Trafic, among others. This is one of the bigger vans in La Poste’s fleet, the service also owns thousands of smaller Renault Kangoo-type vans, and Michelin hopes the tire will help La Poste reduce service-related downtime.

Once the pilot program is in full swing, La Poste will send its Uptis-riding vans on routes around Lesquin, Valenciennes and Douai in the north of France, near the border with Belgium. Regardless of which route they end up on, they’re sure to turn heads: the Uptis tire is airless, so it relies on a series of flexible fins to support the weight of the vehicle. It’s see-through, and it’s certainly not a subtle modification.

We expect that more details about Michelin’s pilot project will emerge in the coming months. As of writing, it’s too early to tell if or when the Uptis tire will reach production, though the French company notes that it’s developing the technology primarily for “light commercial fleets intended for professional use,” meaning you may need to be patient before you can buy a set for your BMW 3 Series daily driver.

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